The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem on January 12, 2019, condemned “the irresponsible and provocative images” being displayed through February 17 at the Haifa Museum of Art, Haifa, Israel.
“We realize that Israel upholds the right of free expression and speech, however, the character of the Holy Land and the sanctity of the three Abrahamic Religions should be at all times respected and revered,” the Patriarchs and church leaders said in their public statement. “Such an insulting behavior does not help the three religions in their mission to promote tolerance, conviviality, and co-existence among the people of the Holy Land and beyond.”
The exhibit – ShopIt! – is an attempt by the artists to protest consumerism. However, it has drawn criticism and even protests for its use of Christian images in what many consider to be a profane manner. One piece shows a crucified Ronald McDonald.
Although the museum has not responded to criticism, the promotional material for the exhibit includes the following:
The desire for objects, the passion for “shopping,” is translated today into a popular pastime. Indeed, a large part of happy humanity solemnly attends the rituals of consumption, equipped with credit cards. Its goal is to find meaning and discover a new identity: “I consume, therefore I am”; I am inseparable from a large group of happy beings – consumers of merchandise and opportunities.
Nowadays, the individual who acquires too little is perceived as selfish, misanthropic, indifferent to the economy on which he depends. A person dressed unfashionably, or not in possession of the latest computer model, may encounter negative responses or even suffer ostracism. Owning property is equated with high status and respect, while lacking property means a lack of status.
The Patriarchs and church leaders have asked that the images be removed and the museum to issue an apology.
Following is the full statement of the Patriarchs and church leaders:
STATEMENT – We, the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, strongly condemn the irresponsible and provocative images that were displayed at the Haifa Museum of Art which is under the patronage of the Haifa Municipality. The Haifa Museum of Art allowed an exhibition that aimed to criticize ‘consumerism’ within the Israeli society. The content of this exhibition includes insulting images of the most sacred figures and symbols of the Christian faith. This issue is unacceptable and should be denounced and undone immediately. The respect of religious symbols and figures, whether Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, should be preserved no matter what.
We realize that Israel upholds the right of free expression and speech, however, the character of the Holy Land and the sanctity of the three Abrahamic Religions should be at all times respected and revered. Such an insulting behavior does not help the three religions in their mission to promote tolerance, conviviality, and co-existence among the people of the Holy Land and beyond.
We call upon the Municipality of Haifa, and the management of the Haifa Museum of Art to remove, and without any delay, all the insulting images of our Christian Faith and Traditions. Moreover, we expect a formal apology from the municipality or those responsible for such an exhibition.
The Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem
January 12, 2019